May... or may not
So, that's that then. Tony Blair's going next May and he'll announce that in September before the Labour Party Conference. Or so a number of my distinguished fellow commentators predict.
Don't believe a word of it.
I don't mean to suggest that they're making it up. I've no doubt that assorted Blairite MPs or confidants have said as much. I'm simply saying that you need to distinguish between the Westminster war gaming that fills many an idle hour and a plan or decision by the man himself.
What Charles Clarke's musings this week have highlighted is how Tony Blair's prime ministerial horizon is drawing ever closer. His range of possible departure dates are narrowing. Whether or not the former home secretary's remarks were fuelled or coloured by anger, disappointment or calculation, what he said reflects the mood of many in Team Blair who no longer see how he can carry on until 2008.
The party, they fear, may not tolerate another conference at which Tony Blair presents himself as the man of the future and slaps down Gordon Brown's claims to that title. Friends of Mr Brown - whether organised by him or acting as a result of their own frustration - will once again demand clarity about the "transition" just as they did after May's elections.
Then, of course, there's next May's electoral test. Those fearing another hammering in the locals and in the Welsh assembly and Scottish parliamentary elections may demand change. Thus go the conversations that are fuelling the growing sense that Tony Blair will have to say something this autumn and will have to go by next May. That, and the knowledge that he once remarked that Margaret Thatcher should have stood down on the 10th anniversary of her election with her reputation intact.
As you'll recall, that same anniversary comes for this prime minister next May.
And yet... and yet. Until and unless someone is willing to bring Tony Blair down, he remains the master of the timing of his departure. He knows as well that the public will not easily forgive the removal of a man who's already announced he's going.
He knows that Gordon Brown fears the consequences of removing him even more than he hates the prospect of him staying in office. He knows too that his old friend "events" might, once again, throw him a lifeline.
Any real - rather than merely political - crisis would highlight his experience and leadership and shame his critics into staying silent. Thus, the prime minister will not, if recent history is any guide, make any decisions until he absolutely has to.
So, if I were a betting man I'd wager that he won't still be around next summer. But I'm not a betting man and I wouldn't advise you to wager much on this latest proclamation of what Tony Blair will do.